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Gone are the days when the term “food” was only associated with whole foods or what they call “real food.” Today, a huge percentage of the food we consume is processed.
Even as more people become aware of the risks associated with processed foods and how consuming whole foods can help avoid the risks, the rate at which people are consuming processed foods is alarming.
As a matter of fact, research indicates that processed foods make up a whopping 60 percent of the American Diet.
Understanding the differences between whole and processed foods is the perfect way for people to discover just how much they are missing from their diets.
That said, let’s see how processed foods differ from whole foods;
Wholefoods vs Processed Foods- The Differences
Whole foods basically represent foods that are in their natural state with little or no processing and contain no additives or other artificial ingredients.
Because of this, whole foods are nutrient dense as they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains like wheat and corn, nuts, and legumes are a good example of whole foods.
Due to increasing awareness of the benefits of consuming whole foods, most supermarkets, and grocery stores are now stocking them. Whenever you visit the grocery store or supermarket, only select the foods in the “organic foods/whole foods aisle.
Another option is the farmer’s market. It’s here that you will find all sorts of organic whole foods at affordable costs. The foods are often freshly picked, so all their nutrients and flavor are often intact.
As the name suggests, processed foods are a type of foods that have undergone some form of alteration during preparation.
During processing, ingredients such as sodium, sugar, fats, preservatives, and other additives are sometimes added. The goal is to make the food more appealing, flavorful, palatable, and to extend their shelf life.
As stated earlier, at least 60% of the American Diet consists of processed foods.
The biggest problem with processed foods is that they contain excessive amounts of sodium, salt, carbs, and fats. They also contain high amounts of calories and as a result, cause weight gain faster than any other type of food.
Processed foods tend to be more appealing compared to whole foods, and this causes most people to overeat. They also contain more sugar and fats, which makes it even more attractive.
The high consumption of processed foods has led to an increased risk of a wide range of chronic diseases. There is a staggering number of people with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle diseases, all thanks to processed foods.
But not all processed foods are bad for your health though. Minimal processing like cutting, washing, baking, or even freezing doesn’t really count as processing.
A good example of healthy processed foods includes frozen fruits, peanut butter, baked/canned beans, pre-washed, or fruit/vegetable juices and smoothies, packed vegetables, and more.
Whole Foods and Processed Foods List
•Fresh fruits and veggies- Oranges, mangoes, plums, lemons, apples, bananas, peaches
•Berries- Blueberries, cherries, red berries, strawberries
•Leafy green vegetables- Spinach, kale, asparagus, cabbage, lettuce
•Whole grains-Buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, barley, millet, whole grain rye
•Meat- Fish, free-range poultry, free range eggs, pork, grass-fed beef, and mutton,
•Legumes- Beans, green peas
•Nuts- Peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds, hazelnut
Breakfast cereals, white bread, white rice,bacon, hot dogs, potted and deli meats, canned meat, fruit/vegetable juices (with added sugar), French fries, fried chicken, processed cheese, wheat products like doughnuts, cakes, hamburgers, margarine, granola bars, flavored nuts, ketchup, and more.
Of course, you may be tempted to go for processed foods since it’s all appealing and delicious. However, think about how these foods impact your health in the long-term.
If you’re looking to lose weight, opting for processed foods will do you no good. Whole organic foods plus regular physical activity is the only way to lose weight and lead a healthier life.
Benefits of WholeFoods vs Processed Foods
1. Wholefoods are loaded with all essential nutrients
During processing, most processed foods lose most of the important nutrients. In most cases, these foods often contain trace amounts of essential nutrients. They also tend to be more energy-dense due to their high-calorie intake.
Whole foods, on the other hand, contains all vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. Your body needs these nutrients on a daily basis for optimal health.
Consuming fresh fruits like oranges, bananas, mangoes, kiwi, apple, and more will provide you with high doses of vitamins C, A, B-vitamins, and others. They are also packed with dietary fiber which promotes good bowel movement and basically promotes a healthy digestive tract.
2.Reduces the risk of Obesity
Excessive consumption of processed and junk foods has been linked to overeating and obesity.
You see, processed foods are made more appealing and sweet by adding processed sugar, processed fats and margarine, flavors and other additives, as well as sodium.
Processed foods are also loaded with carbs and therefore contain a lot of calories.
With whole foods, it’s a totally different story. You see, whole foods are more filling and contain plenty of fiber, preventing you from overeating, allowing for slow release of sugar in the bloodstream, and promoting healthy digestive function.
3.Reduced risk of Heart Diseases
Due to high sodium, sugar, fat, and cholesterol content, processed foods are known to cause cardiovascular diseases like heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis.
These foods cause severe inflammation, which results in heart disease.
Whole foods are packed with powerful antioxidants and nutrients that promote good heart health. Unlike processed foods, whole foods contain less cholesterol, healthy fats, and minerals that support proper heart function.
4.Reduces the risk of diabetes
The rate at which cases of diabetes are rising is worrying. According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately 400 million people around the globe have diabetes. The number is expected to reach a staggering 600 million in the next 25 years.
Like obesity and heart disease, the consumption of processed foods is the leading cause of diabetes. Studies have linked processed foods to insulin resistance, which raises your blood sugar levels to dangerous proportions.
Research has shown that consuming unprocessed foods may help balance blood sugar levels in people who are at a high risk of developing diabetes.
Dietary fiber is especially crucial as it slows down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and basically helps balance its levels.
5.Reduces Cholesterol and Triglyceride Level
The type of food you consume on a daily basis largely affects your blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Eating processed foods containing high amounts of unhealthy, saturated fats have been found to raise triglyceride and cholesterol levels. It gets even worse when you consume high amounts of fatty red meat, pork, lamb, poultry with skin, high-fat dairy, and saturated vegetable oils.
Ditching processed foods and foods with high amounts of saturated fats is a good way to balance your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
6. Whole foods protect against cancer
Like diabetes, researchers say that the high consumption of processed and “ultra-processed foods has significantly increased the risk of cancer.
One study published in the BMJ reported that the consumption of ultra-processed foods such as instant noodles, packaged snacks, canned meats, soda, and sugary drinks might be linked to a rise in cancer risk.
All these might increase the risk of cancerous tumors in various parts of the body, including the stomach, colon, and breasts.
Consumption of whole, organic foods have been advocated as an ideal way to eliminate the risk of cancer. A lot of fresh fruits and veggies are packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants which not only prevent the formation of tumors but also detoxifies your body to remove any potentially harmful toxins.
7.Improved Skin Health, Slow Aging
Long-term consumption of processed foods has been linked to accelerated skin aging. The biggest culprits include processed sugar, alcohol, salt, trans fats/hydrogenated fats, processed meats, white bread, soft drinks, and more.
These foods are also laden with high amounts of chemicals and preservatives most of which cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation is known to cause extensive damage to collagen (the fiber that makes your skin firm and youthful), resulting in wrinkles, fine lines, and other age-related diseases.
Looking older than you really are is something you wouldn’t ever want to imagine, right?
Well, there is a way. A lot of whole foods like fruits like Oranges, leafy greens, yogurt, berries, nuts, green tea, and others are packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals and protect your skin from the harmful UV rays.
By following a diet consisting of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, your skin will appear visibly youthful and glowing.
8.Improved digestive health
Due to their high sugar, sodium, chemical preservatives, and little or no dietary fiber, processed foods end up slowing down food digestion, not to mention causing severe constipation.
Processed foods also cause an increase in harmful bacteria as well as acid, which causes a wide range of digestive issues.
Considering having a bad digestive system is a major cause of most illnesses, adopting a diet consisting of organic whole foods is crucial.
Besides promoting food absorption, healing stomach lining inflammation, and reducing stomach acid, wholefoods also introduce beneficial bacteria to your gut.
If you have a sluggish metabolism as a result of regular consumption of processed foods, a healthy diet with more whole foods can help boost it.
9.Improved dental health
The sugar, carbs, and the acid-packed American diet is known to promote tooth decay. People of all ages are dealing with cavities, plaque, gum disease, bad breath, and other dental issues.
The combination of added sugar and acid in soda is a significant cause of dental issues in both children and adults.
If you’ve been dealing with many dental issues, its time you changed your diet.
Eating whole foods containing enamel-building minerals like calcium and vitamin D can help prevent and even reverse tooth decay. Organic dairy products like cheese can help prevent tooth cavities by hardening the enamel and increasing PH.
The consumption of processed foods increases the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and others. This, of course, means a short lifespan.
If you look closely at the different diets of the longest-lived populations, you will notice points in common. People from places in the so-called “Blue Zones” like Okinawa in Japan and the Symi island in Greece consume their foods mostly from natural sources which means these diets practically have everything to do with dieting ideal for health and longevity.
Unquestionably, the most important points are the outstanding absence of sugar and refined carbohydrates as well as of vegetable oils high in Omega 6 (sunflower, corn, and soya). If you can incorporate whole foods in your diet together with regular physical exercise, you may achieve a longer lifespan.
Organic vs Processed Foods- Price Comparison
Perhaps the only disadvantage associated with whole foods is that it costs more compared to organic food.
Various studies discovered that adopting a healthier diet could cost you $1.56 more compared to processed foods.
However, this is not enough excuse to eat processed foods. After all, there are other costs to worry about- the cost of managing lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity.
You might be thinking that you’re saving money buying processed foods, but it’s the other way round.
The good news is that you can always get fresh produce from your local farmer’s market. Even better, if your home has a small backyard, creating a kitchen garden would be in order.
With a kitchen garden, you can have a continuous supply of leafy greens, tomatoes, herbs, and other vegetables.
Eating healthy can be costly especially if you live in urban areas, but it’s still possible.
Wrapping it Up
Overall, whole organic foods are the real deal when it comes to providing your body with the essential nutrients.
These are the perfect foods to incorporate in your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. By loading up on whole foods, you will not only reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, but you’ll also improve your mental health and mood.
If you’re a vegetarian, adopting a whole food plant based diet is advisable.
Go ahead and make the switch!